School Bathroom Vandalism: The Student Perspective

Anna Popnikolova •

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In September of 2021 the Devious Licks Tiktok challenge destroyed Nantucket High School's bathrooms. Now — just over a year later — the school has spent upwards of $100,000 repairing consistent damage to the plumbing system.

Students entered their first block on Wednesday to the announcement that bathrooms were once again closed. Visible from the hallway, the boys and girls bathrooms were blocked off by desks with blue tape signs. The basement staff bathroom also carried two “Out Of Order” and “Bathroom Closed” signs. Students and staff were instructed to use either of the two bathrooms on the ground floor.

Aileen Wiggin is an NHS social studies teacher and alumnus of Nantucket High. She, along with the rest of the high school’s staff, received an email Wednesday morning before the first bell. The email was from Principal Mandy Vasil detailing the bathroom closures.

Wiggin read the email and announced it to her first class, AP US History. She was not surprised and neither were they.

“We’ve gotten, I don’t even know how many of those emails at this point — just in this school year,” Wiggin said. “So it’s getting to the point where it’s not odd to see another one.”

The damage done to the basement level this time around was to the sewage pump from student’s flushing vape pens. NHS students have been flushing vape pens, not just the cartridges, down the toilets. Vasil explained to staff in her announcement that the system was pumped out on December 30 and they discovered “hundreds of vape pens.”

Now, only a few days into 2023, there have been problems with the pump. In order to avoid further damage, the water to the basement bathrooms has been cut off until the plumbing can be fixed.

In efforts to hopefully find solutions to this major problem, the NHS administration held meetings on Thursday afternoon in response to the bathroom closure. During the school’s final class of the day, each grade was called in for “class meetings.” Vasil talked to the students about the situation and asked that students be more mindful of their behaviour while being more respectful towards staff and facilities.

An “emergency parent meeting” was held after school Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Vasil showed a presentation with images of the materials found in the pump and explained how much the constant repairs were costing the school.

“Every time it has had to be replaced,” Vasil said. “We’ve spent somewhere between $3,500-5,000 (per replacement). We’ve spent over $100,000 at this point.”

Vasil explained to parents that the amount of money spent on facilities could be going to equipment for elective courses and showed a summary of different items pertaining to vocational classes that the student’s enjoy. The list included new microscopes, a pug mill for ceramics, and more.

“This school is our home,” Vasil said. “This is our home and we want our students to understand that this is their home too. We need to take care of it.”

When the bell rang at 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday, NHS seniors Ollie Davis and Marlin Glowacki walked down the basement hallway when the bell rang at 7:45 a.m. towards their first period Latin IV class. They saw the blocked off bathrooms on the way and Glowacki jokingly said “we walked past the bathrooms and I said can’t have s*** in Detroit.”

The seniors, like Wiggin, were unsurprised.

“I saw that there was tape and a table covering the entrance and I thought ‘what is it this time?’” Davis said.

The seniors’ Latin teacher, Christopher Cothran’s classroom is around the corner from the closed off lavoratories. Cothran, the senior’s Latin teacher, took the situation personally.

“It’s just super disappointing,” he said. “It’s hard as a teacher. You want to model good behavior and respectful behavior. When stuff like this happens, it kind of feels like we’re failing.”

This is not the first time this has happened at Nantucket High. Bathrooms were repeatedly vandalized in 2022 and toilets were clogged with everything from pottery clay to kitty litter.

“Before it was Capri Suns and last year we had kitty litter and clay,” Cothran said. “I think it highlights the lack of respect that we’ve had to deal with for a long time.”

No one seemed inclined to think the damage was intentional unlike last year’s vandalism. They just felt it was disrespectful.

“They don’t respect the school because they feel like the school doesn’t respect them,” Glowacki said.

Though vapes clogging toilets has been the recent issue, vaping problems in the bathrooms have persisted for years.

“I just want to go to the bathroom, get out, and not have to smell the fumes of their delinquent drugs.” Davis said while expressing her long-time frustrations with bathrooms, which are often plagued with sickly-sweet vape.

The number of vapes found point to a larger problem which is the student vaping epidemic.

“If you physically cannot make it through eight hours of school without vaping, you need help,” Wiggin said. “You need help from a healthcare provider because you are addicted and you’re very young to be addicted.”

A junior at Nantucket High who admitted to vaping in school on occasion requested to remain anonymous, but offered her experience.

“I have never flushed a vape down the toilet,” she said. “I’ve never seen anybody do that. People vape in the bathroom, but I’ve never heard of anybody flushing it down the toilet.”

She couldn’t think of a solution that could help purify the school of its vandalism and vape problem, but offered a first step.

“I think the best course of action is just to say stop throwing it in the toilet, just throw it in the trash.”

These sudden bathroom closures are adding to an already tense school environment.

“It’s just another layer of stress added to an already stressful world,” Cothran said. “I can’t tell you how many times today I’ve seen another teacher, thrown up my arms, and said I don’t know what to say anymore.”

Cothran said he felt upset that the problem was happening right outside his door.

“It’s just getting harder to come here everyday because of stuff like that,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t love it, but it’s getting harder to love.”

Anna Popnikolova is a Nantucket High School student and the editor in chief of Veritas, the high school newspaper.

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